Quick, who is Payson’s starting center?
Alas — not many fans know Denton Petersen, since he’s not even listed on the varsity roster.
But the freshman suddenly plays a crucial role in the team’s offense, after a succession of injuries promoted him to the job.
First, starting snapper Dakota Harold (senior) has struggled with chronic shin splints that limited his snaps in week one and sidelined him last week. Of course, it didn’t help that a four-wheeler rolled over his leg prior to last week’s game at Page.
Next, sophomore Donavan Cross entered the season as the backup center but went down with an injury in the season-opener.
The coaching staff then shifted right tackle Noah Wood (senior) to center, but knee issues sidelined him as well.
That brings us to young Mr. Petersen.
“He’s going to be there every down for us,” said head coach Jake Swartwood.
The coach hopes Harold and Wood will return soon. In the meantime, the Longhorns are dealing with the situation the best they can.
“We’ve had three centers go down,” Swartwood said. “So that’s a huge hindrance to try to overcome.”
The news gets worse.
Injuries have also left the status of both starting tackles for tonight’s game in doubt. Junior right tackle Chris Perry went down with a dislocated hip early in the first quarter against the Sand Devils. He is not expected to play tonight.
His brother, senior left tackle Steve Perry, suffered a bruised wrist against Page. Swartwood hopes he can play tonight.
The injuries have had a ripple effect as Swartwood shuffles the lineup.
Tight end William Youngberg (6-foot-6, 250 pounds) is moving to right tackle.
“We had so many injuries in the Page game,” Swartwood said. “We made some big changes this week to our line to try to fix those areas. Will is our largest guy.”
And there’s more.
“We also moved both of our fullbacks — Jake Ames and Tate Sweeney — down to guard. So now we’re going to be splitting the fullback and tailback duties between Wyatt Chapman (sophomore), Brian Skinner (sophomore), Trevor Anderson (junior) and Dalton Conway (sophomore). So we’ll have a good solid rotation between those four.”
Swartwood said he simply had to adjust.
“It just gave us the depth we needed on the line,” Swartwood said.
If Steve Perry cannot go at left tackle tonight, one of a number of players could step in. “It could be (seniors) Sweeney, Ames, Jesus Apodaca or Anthony Cleary,” Swartwood said. “It could be Noah Wood if he’s healthy.”
Swartwood expects both Perry brothers back for next week’s home game against Glendale.